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What is the science behind Food Addiction?

Mounting evidence indicates that Food Addiction is a major underlying contributor to the obesity epidemic, and that misdiagnosis and under-treatment of Food Addiction is a major obstacle to overcoming obesity.

“The scientific consensus is that food addiction is real,” said addiction psychiatrist Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH. “Food Addiction is a major part of and cause of the current obesity epidemic and a serious public health threat.”

But many patients and health care providers lack the knowledge and skills to confront the problem. In response, the Food Addiction Institute is on the forefront of advocating for Food Addiction-Informed treatment and providing avenues for health professionals to gain Food Addiction-Informed training, resources and certification.

Scientifically, Food Addiction is a cluster of chemical dependencies on specific foods or food in general; after the ingestion of high palatable foods such as sugar, excess fat and/or salt, the brains of some people develop a physical craving for these foods. Over time, the progressive eating of these foods distorts their thinking and leads to negative consequences which they do not want but cannot stop.

If someone eats when they really do not want to, or, if they persistently eat more food than their body needs, or eat in a way that they know is not good for them, they may be a food addict. There are a number of tests and questionnaires for assessing Food Addiction.

Not all overweight people are food addicts, and not all food addicts are overweight.

  1. Obesity
  2. Eating disorders
  3. Chemical dependency on food

are three very different medical problems.

Some have only one of these medical problems, though it is not unusual for people to have all three.

Since 1995, there have been a number of lines of scientific research that have established evidence of chemical dependency on food. There are a number of other lines of scientific investigation which could illuminate the complexity of Food Addiction. It is now clear that clinicians view Food Addiction not just as one bio-chemical illness, but rather as a cluster of several different chemical dependencies and other disorders.

It is possible to recover from Food Addiction. Treatment is simple but not necessarily easy, and like other addictions and chronic diseases, there is no permanent cure.